For the June 28, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Would You Make a National Holiday? Why?
Though I applaud my colleague and friend, David Stoloff’s choice of a National Voting Day, my choice is a National Holiday to celebrate Native Americans. We as a country have done as much damage to Native Americans as we have to African-Americans.
I submit that we honor our first Americans by acknowledging the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was the government sponsored pogrom in the 1830s and 1840s to banish the Cherokee and other tribes from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to parched lands west of the Mississippi River.
Now this is where I come in.
After aimlessly going through the motions as a political science major at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I transferred to Arizona State University in 1969 to major in education with the idea of teaching on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona. Within two weeks, I realized that the Native Americans in my Intro class were not really thrilled with having one more well-intentioned white boy come to teach their children.
So, I changed course that eventually led me to teach a diverse group of kids (Chicano, Anglo, and African-American) in first Anaheim, California and next in Phoenix, Arizona. Ironically, there in Arizona during the 1970s, I also taught Yaqui Indian kids from the Guadalupe neighborhood in Tempe.
I was woefully unprepared to give my students a nuanced approach to American history. My lack of knowledge of the stories, the trauma, and the genocide of Native Americans was predictable given my own education.
I believe a National Holiday honoring Native Americans would begin a conversation and greater understanding of our First Americans.
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